In many ways, this is quite a subjective question we've got here, for the success of a character is the result of a subtle relationship between the performance and its audience. What choices an animator makes helps to inform and develop that relationship, leaving the audience with a good handle on the personality we wish to portray. It's quite cool, really!
Since it is subjective, I can only talk about what works for myself, sitting in the audience, (probably eating something unhealthy), but maybe this will provide an some insight into what we can all work on to better connect with the me's out there.
For myself, the most important part of an acting shot is that the character stays true to itself. Every important acting decision made should be followed by the question, "Would the character do this?". This is a great way to self-evaluate and begin to dive deeper into the nuances of the character. Just this one simple question will allow the formulation of new ideas that would otherwise remain undiscovered, particularly if the pressure is on to jump into producing footage. When acting out a scene in character, a skilled performer is able to live inside this question and be spontaneous and it is this that makes the performance compelling to watch. Going out of character is a quick way to losing your audience, which is not what we want at all!
This brings us on to being interesting. Our ultimate goal is to engage the audience and provoke an emotional response from them. By exploring the performance we can come up with a bunch in different in-character ideas and then pick the ones that work best. Sometimes It could be a small detail such as the way a finger moves through a gesture, or maybe a broader, more goofy comic choice. Either way, we've just come up with something no one else have thought of, and which has just given depth to the character, making it seem more real! Well done, us!
Now we come to the animation stuff. The technical bits and bobs that go with making our scenes work. By this I mean the application of the principles of animation, composition, staging and so on. Watching beautiful, fluid animation can of course be spine-tingling, but see how it's lower on my list? Admittedly it's a three part list of all important stuff, but you know what I mean. You can have the most technically brilliant animation in the world, but if the performance is flat or out of character, then you have missed your chance at adding to the illusion of an independent entity. It's probably also true, to some extent, that people will forgive some minor technical imperfections if the acting is right on the money. Polish is nothing without substance, but there is no reason why we can't have both, so let's do that!
Ultimately an acting shot shines for the depth of character exemplified within it. Our goal is to provide the sense of a living, breathing universe that exists not only within the viewing frustum, but in its own little reality.
If we've got all this stuff going on in your acting shots, then we've certainly got the viewer's attention. I think our hero's going to be just fine in there. :)
Guest blogger Kevan Shorey